being a busy caregiver means feeding your family takout

I walked in the door at 7:30 tonight after being out since 8:15 this morning. My day consisted of working with kindergarteners for 7 hours, picking my daughter up from track practice, driving 40 minutes to her voice lesson and 40 minutes home, and a stop for Chinese food. I blew off a meeting because I had to get home at a decent hour to help my husband, and I was tired. Like almost every night, I was greeted by dishes in the sink, dirty floors, dusty pet hair covered surfaces, laundry piled on the couch, laundry in the bathroom, laundry in the laundry room. Did I mention there was laundry? The bathroom is a mess, even though I clean it at least once, if not twice, a week. There is also the usual clutter of a lived-in household.

I blew off cooking dinner tonight because if I had to make a meal, we would have been eating at 9 p.m. Did I mention I was tired? So, take-out it was. Again. I was out of the house and on the go for almost 12 hours today and had no desire to cook. As I sat and ate my Chinese food, I looked around and started criticizing myself for my obvious incompetence in running a household.  What kind of wife and mother lets her home look like this?  How dare I have this amount of laundry all over? How dare I allow my floors to look like crap all the time? It’s incredibly embarrassing every single time someone walks into our home. I wonder what they must think of me. I don’t like it when people come over. They probably think I’m lazy. There is no excuse to not keep up with it all. Even though I try to clean it every week, it never looks the way I like it, let alone the way guests would expect to see it. It looks good for a day at most, and then it’s a mess again. I don’t have time to make it look incredible, or even presentable most of the time.

I look forward to weekends, but then I spend them grocery shopping, cleaning what I can, driving kids around, and hopefully catching up on some of the sleep I inevitably missed during the week. It’s a rare weekend that I get to do something just for the fun of it. Sitting and reading a book can be a challenge. I figure I don’t deserve it anyway, because I can’t even get my simple chores done.

I’ve also been trying to find a part time job to supplement my income during the school year, and be able to work in the summer when I don’t get paid from my regular job. I can make it work. I can work a couple of evenings, and maybe one weekend day, while holding my full time job. I mean, it’ll take some of the stress off, right? I can do this. No excuses.

Meanwhile, my husband sat in his recliner. No, he isn’t lazy. Far from it. He was hooked up to the dialysis machine that keeps him alive. He does this 5 nights a week for several hours. He can’t be alone when he is hooked up to the machine. I have to be here with him, or another adult has to be with him, in case something happens or he needs something.  I figure that should give me the time to clean, do laundry, and cook, since I’m home anyway, right? No excuses. There is no excuse. There is no reason that I shouldn’t be getting everything done every night.

These are the things I say to myself all the time. Then tonight, as I sat here, I heard that sound a record makes when the needle scratches it. You know the sound, if you are old enough. Now, I didn’t really hear that sound…it was in my head. But I noticed the negative chatter in my head and stopped myself. What is wrong with me? I never stop, and yet it still isn’t good enough for me. The house isn’t clean enough, I don’t cook enough, I don’t keep up with the laundry, I’m not giving enough time/money/attention/experiences to my kids, I’m not giving enough time/attention to my husband, I’m not making enough money, so I can’t provide enough. I also tear myself apart because of what other people might think. They’ll think I’m lazy, or dirty, or simply not good enough. I make it seem like I can handle it all just fine, but I really can’t. Why is that not okay?

Honestly, I don’t know how to fix it all. I’m trying to accept that this is my life for now. My house will be messy, the laundry won’t be completely done, we will eat take out more than we should, and if other people come over, they will have to tolerate the mess. People will always judge what they haven’t lived. I’m judging it, and I live it. I’m just trying to get myself to the point where I can say “enough is enough,” and be okay with just doing the best I can for now.


Read more on Renee’s blog.

Written by Renee Palumbo
Renee Palumbo is living life with a chronically ill husband, three children, a dog, and a cat. In the 10 years since her husband’s diagnosis, Renee has learned that life can change in an instant, and we all have choices in the way we handle a crisis. She holds a degree in journalism and sociology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Renee writes a blog called Running on Empty, which is about seeing the humor in life, dealing with the stress of a family member’s illness, and looking at life from a slightly warped perspective. She hopes that by expressing her thoughts and feelings, she can help another caregiver feel less alone and more understood. Read more of her thoughts at runningonemptyblog.net.

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12 Comments

  1. Sounds very familiar…someone’s been in my head!

    Reply
  2. After 3 years I finally had to put my Mother in a Nursing Home.
    Our help went above and beyond keeping Mom, Me and the Home in good shape.
    It still wasn’t enough.
    Now, everything is falling into a good pace with cleaning, gardening, Bill paying and living.
    The last year I learned. Super Woman is only in the Comic Books.
    I thought about the mayonnaise jar from the professor you read about at least once a year.
    I decided use only three items to do each day.
    1. SOMETHING IMPORTANT
    2. SOMETHING NOT SO IMPORTANT
    3. SOMETHING FOR ME

    That worked.
    Still, 3 years was my limit.
    Blessings to all caregivers.

    Reply
  3. If you can afford it, hire someone to clean your house. Also make sure they’ll chsnge, launder, fold and put away all your towels and sheets. It will give you such a mental lift once a week or twice a month.

    Reply
    • We are barely keeping our heads above water right now, so hiring someone is out of the question. But, a cleaning person is definitely one of my goals for some day.

      Reply
    • Are there violunteer groups who might have people who can clean or do laundry for you?

      Reply
    • Renee Smith Palumbo If you belong to a church, there are sometimes lists of volunteers who want to be do-gooders. Or people who will come and sit with your Beloved One. Often for free, sometimes for $10 an hour under the table.’

      Reply
  4. There is no way to keep your house the way you want it when you have someone that cannot carry their own load. There’s no way.. I no longer feel bad about it. I do the best I can.. We’re only human.

    Reply
    • Yes. The thing is to minimize. Put away everything you do not need – pots and pans, sets of dishes and silverware, placemats, cannisters, knick-knacks, mugs mugs mugs. Towels and sheets. Clean out the pantry and canned goods. Or just take everything in boxes down in the basement and bring it up if needed. It will be amazing how much stuff is not needed. I say this because paring down ‘stuff’ is SO helpful when you are feeling overwhelmed. If you have your necessities, you will feel so much better.

      Reply

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